June 25, 2014

North End Bistro in Princeton and Osteria Procaccini in Pennington area among eight restaurants in the northeast to win The American Culinary Federation’s 2014 Achievement of Excellence Award. ACF recognizes those food service establishments that exemplify a commitment to excellence in food service in the marketplace.

Both restaurants are members of the Gretalia Hospitality Group, comprising six area restaurants. In addition to the two listed above, these include Osteria Procaccini in Kingston and now in Crosswicks, plus PJ’s Pancakes in Princeton and West Windsor.

“We’re thrilled to win this award,” John Procaccini, one of the owners of Gretalia, said. “We strive in our family of restaurants to offer delicious food, well-prepared, in a personalized service atmosphere. We are honored to be recognized for professionalism.”

ACF, a professional organization for chefs and cooks, was founded in 1929 in New York City by three chefs’ organizations: the Société Culinaire Philanthropique, the Vatel Club, and the Chefs de Cuisine Association of America. It is an organization based on promoting the professional image of American chefs worldwide through education of culinarians at all levels.

Today, ACF is the largest professional chefs organization in North America. It is made up of more than 20,000 members who belong to more than 200 chapters in four regions across the United States. In addition, ACF operates the most comprehensive certification program for chefs in the United States. ACF is home to ACF Culinary Team USA, the official representative for the United States in major international culinary competitions, and to the Chef and Child Foundation, founded in 1989 to promote proper nutrition in children and combat childhood obesity.

———

 

O ROSE THOU ART SICK: William Blake may not have meant his words to be taken so literally, but it’s hard to avoid his line when looking at these before and after images. Eriophyid mites, although tiny, can cause dramatic plant deformities such as the “witches broom” shown here.(Photograph by L. Arntzenius)

O ROSE THOU ART SICK: William Blake may not have meant his words to be taken so literally, but it’s hard to avoid his line when looking at these before and after images. Eriophyid mites, although tiny, can cause dramatic plant deformities such as the “witches broom” shown here. (Photograph by L. Arntzenius)

Princeton’s rose growers are struggling to come to terms with Rose Rosette Disease (RRD) a very nasty infection that is spreading through the region’s rose bushes. If you haven’t seen much about it in print, that might be because those affected are in denial when it comes to the possible demise of their beloved rosebushes.

“It’s a viral disease transferred from plant to plant by an eriophyid mite and there’s nothing you can do about it,” said horticulturist Barbara Bromley of the Cooperative Extension of Mercer County at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey.

Ms. Bromley was responding to a call Monday about the sickness that has affected a fragrant floribunda in this reporter’s garden.

“Almost anyone who grows roses in Princeton will have this” she said, adding that she has responded to numerous calls from locals about destroyed leaves and blooms on prized ornamentals. “I’ve even seen this disease on Knockout roses too,” she said referencing the popular rose variety that is a favorite of garden supply sections in big box stores.

I first noticed the problem when a beautiful peachy-colored rose that has bloomed all summer long since it was planted some six years ago began showing foliage that was twisted in on itself. The leaves were reddish in color and the roses that ultimately formed were clearly not normal. When I described the growth to a fellow gardener, her immediate response was: “witches broom.” That did not sound good.

That was two summers ago. Last year, it got worse; this year, in spite of hopes that the recent hard winter might somehow have ameliorated its spread, there are even more signs. There is no magic bullet when it comes to dealing with RRD.

Known widely for her gardening advice through the Master Gardeners of Mercer County program, Ms. Bromley advised drastic action. Remove the entire plant including every bit of root. Although the virus will not be in the soil, she also advised resisting the temptation to replace the diseased rose with a healthy one. “If you got it once in that spot, chances are you will get it again,” she said. “And, ‘witches broom’ is a symptom of the disease rather than a name for the disease itself,” she clarified.

If you have wild multiflora roses nearby, you should do your best to get rid of them, she told me. But the best way to avoid problems such as this is, “not to plant too many of any one plant.”

Ms. Bromley explained that the airborne infected mites inject the RRD virus into the rose as they feed. Non-infected mites can pick up the disease from an infected rose and spread it to another plant courtesy of a gust of wind.

One Gardener’s Experience

It took a week for local rose cultivator Liz Hosny to discover that one of her roses had RRD. She sent a photograph to the well known Philadelphia gardener Judy Perry who identified the problem immediately. “This rose was in its own bed but three others elsewhere were showing signs of it; I pulled them out and carefully removed every piece of root,” said Ms. Hosny, who lives on the border between Princeton and Lawrenceville, where she has about 100 rose bushes in her garden including a bank of David Austen’s that are not grafted.

“Now I am feeding my roses with lots of natural feed like seaweed,” said the avid rose-grower, who is modeling her method of dealing with the virus on the survival history of former basketball player Magic Johnson. If the athlete can stave off full blown AIDS by maintaining a healthy lifestyle, perhaps, reasons Ms. Hosny, her roses will survive if she keeps them fit and healthy too.

In spite of the disease she is not taking out any of them until she absolutely has to, but she is on constant alert. “If I see any deformed branches, I remove them immediately,” she said.

“So far so good,” she said. Ms. Hosny has developed a philosophical attitude to gardening over many years. “If you are a gardener, you can’t always do what you want to do, sometimes you have to do what the land will allow you to do. If I have to live without roses, so be it,” she said.

Numerous online sources offer advice on RRD. One garden blogger, Ann Peck (see: www.rosegeek.com/index.htm), claims to have “cleaned” and saved a rose by cutting out and removing the infected parts. Ms. Peck is a member of the Asheville Blue Ridge Rose Society and a retired organic geochemist. Like Ms. Hosny, she suggests that removal of the infected parts might slow down the demise of an infected plant.

But beware of online misinformation, said Ms. Bromley. To be sure to get to a reliable source, she offers a handy trick: add the word “extension” to any search engine query. “That way you will get information from a university extension rather than from a chat room or from someone trying to sell you ‘a cure,’” she said. “There is no cure.”

As for substitutions for roses, Ms. Bromley suggests that if you want flowers, consider perennial plants instead.

If in doubt, Ms. Bromley suggests, gardeners should check with an expert like those in the County Extension system.

The Master Gardeners of Mercer County answers home horticulture questions through the helpline, (609) 989-6853, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. (March through October) and 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (November through February). For more information, visit www.mgofmc.org.

 

Princeton House Behavioral Health recently expanded its specialized services for young adults, offering an inpatient program that provides intensive, short-term medical detoxification and addiction treatment for men and women ages 18 through mid-20s.

The program, located exclusively at Princeton House’s main campus, 905 Herrontown Road, also treats individuals who are dually diagnosed with addiction and mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety. The length of stay averages between one and two weeks.

Chris Losch, LCSW, LCADC, Director of Addiction Services, said young adults are at the epicenter of a national opiate addiction epidemic, and they represent Princeton House’s fastest-growing patient population. Young adults benefit from a specialized program because they tend to fare better in treatment among their peers, whose common life experiences are significantly different from adults outside their age group.

The inpatient program features a curriculum focused on age-appropriate topics, personalized assessments, and groups specializing in topics such as school, work, relationships, substance abuse, and other relevant issues facing young adults.

An individualized treatment program is developed for each patient that may include group therapy, along with coping/life skills training and creative arts therapy; individual sessions; family and multifamily educational groups; and medication monitoring by psychiatrists, advanced practice nurses and RNs. Referrals for continuing care and post-hospitalization treatment are also important components of the care plan.

The inpatient service is a part of a continuum of treatment for young adults that includes partial hospital and intensive outpatient programs at Princeton House outpatient centers in Princeton, Hamilton, Moorestown and North Brunswick. For more information, visit www.princetonhouse.org.

Greater Mercer Transportation Management Association (GMTMA) announced routing changes for the NJ Transit 655 bus route that serves Princeton and Plainsboro as of Monday, June 23.

As an incentive to try the revised route, GMTMA and the 655 Partners have arranged for the public to try the service for free on Wednesday, June 25 and Thursday, June 26.

The bus route changes were made to provide more direct access to destinations in Princeton and Plainsboro. “The No. 655 route is a vital connection between Plainsboro and neighboring Princeton which will provide direct access to employment, recreation, and shopping opportunities for residents and visitors,” said N.J. Transit Executive Director Veronique “Ronnie” Hakim. “We encourage community members and visitors alike to travel on the No. 655 and make public transportation a regular part of their day-to-day routine.”

In Princeton the route has been streamlined by having the bus travel on Witherspoon from Nassau to Terhune in both directions to and from the Princeton Shopping Center rather than looping on Harrison Street. “We listened to a number of residents, who felt the bus line was not as effective as it could be in meeting their needs,” said Cheryl Kastrenakes, executive director of GMTMA. “We then communicated their concerns to the 655 Partners and NJ TRANSIT and recommended the route changes.”

“When we evaluated the service in Plainsboro, we determined that passengers would be better served by routing the bus through the heart of Plainsboro, the Village Center and along Plainsboro Road to Enterprise,” said Ms. Kastrenakes. The new routing in Plainsboro will still serve the UMCPP, Novo Nordisk, Bristol Myers — Squibb and Plainsboro apartment complexes.

NJ TRANSIT’s 655 bus route first began providing service in May 2012 between the communities of Princeton and Plainsboro, with service to the new University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro. The route is a Public–Private Partnership with funding being provided by Princeton University, UMCPP, Greater Mercer TMA, Middlesex County, and DVRPC. Ms. Kastrenakes believes the revised routing and free fare days will help to increase ridership on the route. “We want to encourage area residents to ride the 655 bus route to discover where they can go in Princeton and Plainsboro. The free fare days are “an excellent opportunity to try it out.”

For more information, call GMTMA Commuter Services at (609) 452-1491, or visit: 655route.com.

New regulations proposed by the state Council on Affordable Housing (COAH) dictating that Princeton has “zero obligation” to build more affordable units have caused concern that developers will be able to challenge the town’s current municipal ordinance requiring them to set aside a portion of affordable units in housing projects.

Princeton Council was given a presentation on the proposed rules at its meeting Monday night. In another matter, the governing body heard from neighbors and the owners of a rental home at 59 Meadowbrook Drive known as the “flood house” before voting 5-1 for an ordinance to demolish the flood-prone property and create a small pocket park on the site.

COAH’s proposed, third-round rules were published on June 2. In her presentation to Council, Princeton’s COAH adviser Shirley Bishop stressed repeatedly that the regulations are not set in stone. The non-profit Fair Share Housing Center has filed a lawsuit with the New Jersey Supreme Court, questioning the methods that were used to arrive at the figures in the proposed rules. The New Jersey Builders Association may also file a suit soon, Ms. Bishop said.

Princeton’s zero building obligation is based not on need, but on the fact that the town does not have much space to build more units. The municipality has until August 1 to register its own comments, and Ms. Bishop recommended that the town file an OPRA (Open Public Records Act) request to determine how the data was compiled. The state will adopt the regulations on November 17 unless ruled not to do so by the state Supreme Court.

Princeton’s ordinance currently requires developers to set aside 20 percent of the units in large, multi-family developments as affordable. “One of my main concerns about this is that we do have a strong commitment here that is above and beyond the state requirement,” Mayor Liz Lempert said at a press conference earlier in the day. “I don’t want [new rules] to stand in our way.” At the meeting, Ms. Lempert said, “I want to make sure that if the state comes back and says we don’t have any obligation, that it is not going to impede our ability to keep that law on the books.”

Councilwoman Jo Butler called the zero obligation figure “really shocking,” and suggested Council form a subcommittee to help compile a response. Councilman Patrick Simon commented, “The rules appear to be to protect developers even more aggressively than they already did.” Ms. Lempert suggested asking the town’s affordable housing board for help. “We want to make sure we can continue to do what we feel we need to do for our town,” she said.

The proposed COAH rules are based on data from the U.S. Census. COAH arrived at the figures by considering the number of persons per room in units built before 1960; plumbing facilities such as lack of a sink, toilet, tub, or shower; and kitchen facilities such as the lack of a sink with piped water, a stove, or refrigerator. A unit has to have at least one of those deficiencies to be considered eligible, and has to be occupied by a low/moderate income household.

Princeton would be obligated to rehabilitate 151 affordable units under the proposed regulations. On-site surveys were not conducted to come up with the figure of 151 deficient units, Ms. Bishop said, encouraging Council to perform an exterior survey if it believes the 151 figure is too high.

There are currently more than 2,000 people on the waiting list for affordable rental housing in Princeton, Ms. Bishop said.

 “Flood House”

The ordinance approved by Council to demolish the house at 59 Meadowbrook Drive was voted on after a public hearing, where there were comments from several neighbors of the property and strong statements from members of Council, particularly Lance Liverman. “This is a dangerous, dangerous property,” Mr. Liverman said. “If we don’t do this now, the grant we’re supposed to be receiving will be thrown away. I just don’t see how this isn’t a win-win situation.”

Under the terms of a grant from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (FEMA), the town will use $30,000 of open space trust funds to pay for the demolition and rehabilitation. The purchase price of the property is $625,000, and the balance is to be paid for by FEMA. There were concerns aired about the purchase price, which some believe is too high. The assessed value of the land and the house was $577,300 as of last year.

“I do have some hesitancy,” said Councilwoman Jenny Crumiller. “I would like to discuss this one more time behind closed doors.” But Bob Kiser, the town’s engineer, said that under the FEMA grant, the site must be restored by September 12, which doesn’t allow time for more discussion.

Flooding has been a longstanding problem at the site, Mr. Kiser told Council. The property, in a development built before federal flood maps were implemented, is owned by Moshe and Nira Lavid. Built in 1960, it is next to a tributary that flows into Harry’s Brook and is prone to major flooding and stormwater problems. Neighborhood residents have grown used to seeing occupants’ belongings drying out on the lawn after major storms through the years; hence the name “flood house.”

Residents first asked the former Township Committee for help in 2002. Denied FEMA funding in 2007, the former Township met with former Representative Rush Holt in 2010 and finally succeeded in getting FEMA funds in 2012, Mr. Kiser said.

Several members of the public urged Council to vote for the ordinance to tear down the house. “I’d be glad to pay my share of the $30,000 Princeton has to pay,” said neighbor Jeff Orleans. “The price may be too high altogether, but the price to us in Princeton is an absolute bargain.” Neighbor Matt Wasserman, who chairs the Princeton Environmental Coalition, pointed out that the $30,000 would come out of Green Acres funds, which are meant for open space. “That’s the cheapest you’ll ever spend for open space in this town,” he said.

Local resident Henry Singer said the price is too high and suggested condemning the property. Resident Dale Meade agreed, adding that this is not the only property in Princeton to be plagued by flooding issues. “The beneficiary of this action will be the landlord,” he said. “Let’s assess what the true market value will be.” But municipal attorney Trishka Cecil said the price of pursuing that strategy would be time-consuming and costly, and possibly end up greater than the purchase price.

Property owner Nira Lavid said she and her husband had no idea that the property was so vulnerable to flooding when they purchased it and they experienced no problems for the first seven years. She added that tenants were notified of the situation in their leases and required to have flood insurance.

Councilman Simon was the only member to vote against the ordinance. Mayor Lempert recused herself from the discussion since she lives across the street from the property.

 

 

While focusing on issues in their individual towns, mayors from Mercer County agreed yesterday that helping to solve problems plaguing the city of Trenton is high on their lists of priorities. Leaders of seven municipalities С from Princeton, Hightstown, Pennington, Hopewell Borough, Hopewell Township, East Windsor, and West Windsor С took part in a roundtable discussion Tuesday morning at Mercer County Community College. The program, “Meet the Mayors,” was sponsored by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce.

“The city of Trenton is critical,” said Pennington Mayor Anthony Persichilli, who grew up in the state capitol. “If there is anything we can do to help, and I’m not talking about money, I think it’s our responsibility.”

Janice Mironov, Mayor of East Windsor, agreed, as did Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert. “It affects all of us, and it’s important that we focus on it as we move forward,” Ms. Mironov said. Ms. Lempert said it is curious that development is encouraged in Princeton, where there is not much available land; rather than in poverty-stricken Trenton, where there is available land and buildings that could be renovated.

The mayors were asked what keeps them up at night. “Trying to get reasonable services for reasonable costs,” responded Steve Kirson, mayor of Hightstown. With 5,500 residents, the town that many pass through on their way to the New Jersey Turnpike is “the smallest big city in the state of New Jersey,” Mr. Kirson said, adding he would like to see more people spend time in the town rather than just driving through. “I’d like to make it a destination community,” he said.

West Windsor Mayor Shing-Fu Hsueh said he is focused on the pieces of property in the township that still need to be developed, including the Princeton Junction train station, where a transit village has been planned for years. Activity on the project is starting, he said.

Among Ms. Lempert’s worries are keeping Princeton’s downtown vibrant and not allowing “Mom and Pop” stores to be overrun by chains. “It’s about how to keep that sense of place, keep the town affordable and keep it diverse,” she said. “Consolidation has helped. We’ve lowered the municipal portion of people’s property taxes. But the question remains, how do we change and stay up to date and innovative without losing the core of what makes us special?”

Asked for a more detailed description of how consolidation has been working, Ms. Lempert called it “a great thing for Princeton.” In addition to lowering taxes, she commented that the municipality works better under one government than it did under two. “We have a smaller police force, but we have more officers on the street. We have a dedicated safe neighborhood unit and a traffic unit,” she said. “It has made a difference in police interactions with the community.”

The fact that Princeton Township and Borough had already been sharing many services and support of the merger by Council members are factors in its success. “I can’t imagine it happening unless you have the support of elected officials,” Ms. Lempert said. “There is a lot of work involved.”

Whether Princeton’s consolidation is serving as a blueprint for other municipalities in the county is another matter. Mr. Kirson said he is skeptical. Ms. Mironov said there would need to be demonstration of significant financial benefit for East Windsor before any kind of consolidation could be seriously considered. “The state needs to provide incentives for this,” she said. In Hopewell Township, “residents are not supportive of the idea at the moment,” said Mayor Vanessa Sandom.

“We’re interested in taking a look [at shared services] on a county-wide basis,” said Mr. Persichilli. “But when you keep costs low and quality high, people are happy and don’t talk about it.” Ms. Mironov added that “more is not always better,” citing the fact that East Windsor pulled out of county-wide recycling when they found a less costly provider on their own.

Asked about parking issues on Nassau Street and how they are affecting businesses, Ms. Lempert said it is a continuing problem, and Princeton Council is working on harmonizing the former Borough and Township ordinances on parking into one. An option being discussed with shop owners is a shuttle service that would ferry employees, and possibly visitors, to a remote parking location.

 

In an email message to Town Topics, IAS spokesperson Christine Ferrara announced that the Institute for Advanced Study is planning an archeological survey at the site where it hopes to build faculty housing.

The announcement came one week after the Princeton Planning Board postponed a public hearing on the Institute’s plans that was to have been held Thursday, June 19.

When Municipal Planning Director Lee O. Solow, who plays a key role in briefing the Board, was unexpectedly absent on medical grounds, the hearing was taken off the agenda.

Ms. Ferrara provided the following statement: “The Institute for Advanced Study’s plans for Faculty housing were unanimously approved by the Princeton Planning Board in March 2012. The Institute agreed to conduct an archeological survey of the project area before construction commenced. The Institute is initiating this work so that the project can proceed once it receives approval on the amended plan, which is currently scheduled to go before the Planning Board on September 18.”

The statement continues: “The Institute has engaged the Ottery Group, a leading cultural resource management and consulting firm, to provide the archeological services. Fieldwork is expected to take place over the summer, after which the data and any artifacts found will be processed and catalogued. Following completion of the archeological work, all artifacts and associated records will be permanently transferred to the New Jersey State Museum, as promised in 2012 by the Institute.”

Meanwhile litigation intended to overturn the Planning Board’s original approval of the Institute’s building plans is pending in the Appellate Court of New Jersey.

After the Planning Board’s 2012 approval of the Institute’s plans to build a group of faculty townhomes and single-family residences on its property adjacent to Princeton Battlefield State Park, the Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society, known for short as The Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS), filed suit to overturn the Board’s ruling. When Judge Mary Jacobson threw out their suit last June, attorney Bruce Afran filed an appeal with the Appellate Court of New Jersey in July on behalf of the Society.

At that time, Battlefield Society President Jerry Hurwitz expressed the hope that a very different decision would be reached by the Appellate Court. “We were unlucky with Judge Jacobson,” he said: “With a different judge it may have gone our way. This time we will be able to critique her opinion and show its weaknesses as well as represent our case all over again.”

Mr. Afran has criticized Ms. Jacobson’s opinions and suggested that she made “some mistakes of law and did not address some important issues” such as the impact the Institute’s plans would have on neighboring sites.

The Institute’s long-standing plans for faculty housing are described on its website (www.ias.edu). For more on the Princeton Battlefield Sociey, visit: theprincetonbattlefieldsociety.com.

 

page1

Kids made themselves at home at Friday’s JaZam’s block party on Palmer Square West. The festival of crafts, food, fun, and music ended at dusk with a showing of “Finding Nemo.” (Photo by Emily Reeves)

June 18, 2014
PRINCETON’S NEWEST RECRUIT: As of last Friday, the Princeton Police Department has a new officer, K9 Harris, whose keen sense of smell will be an additional tool in the Department’s efforts to keep Princeton safe. The 16-month-old Czech Shepherd, shown here with from left: Lt. Robert Toole, Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, Lt. Sharon Papp, Lt. Robert Currier, Lt. Christopher Morgan, and handler Corporal Matthew Solovay. The new K9 Unit will be part of the New Jersey Detect and Render Safe Task Force. Besides helping to find missing and/or endangered persons, K9 Harris will use his skills to track suspects and detect explosives. He is also expected to be a star of police community outreach efforts.

PRINCETON’S NEWEST RECRUIT: As of last Friday, the Princeton Police Department has a new officer, K9 Harris, whose keen sense of smell will be an additional tool in the Department’s efforts to keep Princeton safe. The 16-month-old Czech Shepherd, shown here with from left: Lt. Robert Toole, Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, Lt. Sharon Papp, Lt. Robert Currier, Lt. Christopher Morgan, and handler Corporal Matthew Solovay. The new K9 Unit will be part of the New Jersey Detect and Render Safe Task Force. Besides helping to find missing and/or endangered persons, K9 Harris will use his skills to track suspects and detect explosives. He is also expected to be a star of police community outreach efforts.

The Princeton Police Department has acquired its first K9 Unit. The Department’s newest recruit, K9 Officer Harris, a 16-month-old Czech Shepherd, served his first day of active duty on Friday, June 13.

K9 Harris has been in training since March and is a recent graduate of the New Jersey State Police K9 Academy, where he trained in specialty scent detection.

Handler Corporal Matthew Solovay graduated alongside him from the 14-week training course. Mr. Solovay has been with Princeton Police for 9 years.

The New Jersey State Police Canine Academy’s rigorous training typically includes obedience, agility, tracking, and narcotic and explosive detection.

According to Colonel Rick Fuentes, Superintendent of the New Jersey State Police, the job of a K-9 handler “is a 24-hour-a-day obligation and requires a long term commitment from handlers and their families. Our communities are safer with the addition of these canine teams.”

K9 Harris will live with Mr. Solovay. Man and dog form part of the New Jersey Detect and Render Safe Task Force, a state, county, and local collaboration supported by federal grant funds and coordinated by the New Jersey State Police. The task force is designed to detect explosives before they can be detonated and cause harm.

K9 Harris will also help locate missing and/or endangered persons and track suspects fleeing apprehension. It is expected that he will be particularly useful in locating missing victims suffering from mind altering illnesses.

“We are proud and excited in welcoming our first ever K9 Unit to the police department,” said Police Chief Nicholas Sutter, who expects the unit “to be a vital component in our public safety efforts.”

Asked what had prompted the department to acquire a K9 Unit, Mr. Sutter said that PPD was approached by the Office of Homeland Security based on a number of factors including the amount of callouts the Department made per year for canine support as well as an assessment of the needs of the community.

Princeton Police have used dogs regularly, said Mr. Sutter. “In the past they have come from West Windsor, Lawrence, the Mercer County Sheriff’s Office, and the New Jersey State Police.”

The new unit was formed using federal funds and with the assistance of the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness. It is expected to cost the Department between $1,500 and $2,000 per year in out-of-pocket expenses for food and medical care, said Mr. Sutter.

K9 Harris is named in remembrance of Princeton Borough Police Officer Walter B. Harris, who was shot and killed in the line of duty on February 2, 1946. Born in Princeton, Mr. Harris grew up on Jackson Street and was living with his young family on John Street at the time of the shooting. He was 31 when he died from injuries sustained while attempting to pacify an altercation at the Witherspoon Social Club. He had served over two years with the Borough Police.

According to Mr. Sutter, the Department’s newest recruit, K9 Harris will be a “rookie” until he completes a year of service. He is expected to take part in a number of community outreach projects, said the police chief.

New Jersey’s State Police canine training program was created in 1987 as part of the Statewide Narcotics Task Force. Police K-9 teams assist with criminal investigations, recover evidence, and provide security in crowd control situations. Members of the NJSP Canine Unit also conduct over 100 lectures and demonstrations each year to police organizations, civic groups, schools, and children.

 

The Princeton Battlefield Preservation Society (PBS) is readying for what it has called “The Second Battle of Princeton” when the Princeton Planning Board meets Thursday, June 19, for a hearing on plans by the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) to build eight townhomes and seven faculty houses on land adjacent to the Princeton Battlefield State Park.

In an email message, Battlefield Society President Jerry Hurwitz called for supporters to come to the meeting at 6:30 p.m. in the municipal building, Witherspoon Hall. The meeting officially begins at 7:30 p.m. and the IAS plans are the fifth item on the agenda.

The PBS has described the Institute’s plans as “destruction of the heart of the Princeton Battlefield” and “the destruction of hallowed ground.”

The IAS faculty housing would sit on seven-acres between existing faculty homes and the Institute’s main campus. A 200-foot buffer zone alongside the Battlefield Park would be permanently preserved as open space.

The land upon which the Institute proposes to build is not part of Princeton Battlefield State Park but the PBS has expressed the hope that it might one day be added to it. “Ultimately, it is our hope that someday we will have a willing seller and that the State of New Jersey will be able to proceed in purchasing this property and adding it to the Park …” a statement included in the PBS email message reads.

The land for the proposed faculty housing, which is owned by the Institute for Advanced Study, is described by the Battlefield Society as “the exact site on which Washington and his army broke the British line to win his very first victory over British regulars and successfully conclude the ‘Ten Crucial Days’ campaign that began with Washington’s crossing of the Delaware to attack Trenton.”

Thursday’s Planning Board hearing promises to be a lively one. “We need to get a maximum turnout of our supporters,” says Mr. Hurwitz’s message. “Three years ago, the Institute packed the Board meeting with their supporters. We cannot afford to allow that to happen again!”

Mr. Hurwitz goes on to say of the upcoming Planning Board hearing: “The Board will likely be influenced by who attends” and suggests that those unable to be there on Thursday, put their objections in writing to Ms. Wanda Gunning, Chair and Members of the Princeton Planning Board, so that the objections will become part of the record.

“The more people who attend the hearing to show their support of our fight to stop the revised faculty housing plan the more the Planning Board and the media will be impressed with the depth of your support to win the ‘second battle of Princeton,’” states the email.

The plans to be discussed at the public hearing have been described by the Institute as an amendment of originals submitted and approved by the Planning Board in 2012. According to the PBS, however, the changes made are so significant that the Planning Board should regard this as an entirely new plan, which would mean that the Battlefield Society would have a second chance to present their objections and ultimately, they hope, defeat the proposal. “Supported by newly discovered major flaws in the site plan, we are contending that the project is a new application and that, in fact, it does not meet the criteria necessary to approve their revised plan,” reads the PBS statement.

PBS attorney Bruce Afran is suing to overturn the Planning Board for approving the Institute’s plans in 2012, which was also the year in which the Princeton battlefield was named by the National Trust for Historic Preservation as one of the 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in the United States.

In an article describing the Institute’s plans (Town Topics, June 11), Institute Director Robbert Dijkgraaf spoke of his optimism
regarding the hearing.

According to the Battlefield Society’s statement, the group also feels “very confident of our position.”

As for the Battlefield State Park, lovers of history are invited to celebrate Independence Day there on Friday, July 4, from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m. Re-enactors in Revolutionary War period costume will be on hand to demonstrate drill, artillery, and flintlock muskets. The Thomas Clarke House will be open for tours and the Declaration of Independence will be read aloud at 1 p.m.

Visitors are encouraged to bring a picnic lunch and enjoy hiking on the trails of the adjacent Institute Woods. For more information, call (609) 921-0074.

 

On Thursday, June 26, 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Congregation at 50 Cherry Hill Road, attorney Jeffrey S. Chiesa will deliver a talk on “The Challenge of Human Trafficking.” The event is sponsored by the Princeton Area Interfaith Anti-Torture Group.

Mr. Chiesa is a former United States Senator and New Jersey attorney general who has had a long-term concern about human trafficking throughout his career. He served in the United States Senate following the death of Senator Frank Lautenberg. During his time in the Senate, Mr. Chiesa participated in a number of committees including Homeland Security, where he worked to improve information sharing among federal agencies following the bombing at the Boston marathon and continued his work to combat and raise awareness of human trafficking.

It is estimated that 100,000 girls under 18 years old in the United States are trafficked into commercial sex each year. In a place like Nigeria, some two-thirds of women in the region have had no formal education, only 1 in 20 has completed high school and half are married by age 15.

Mr. Chiesa will be introduced by Tracy Thompson, Assistant Attorney General for Human Trafficking. The event’s numerous co-sponsors, include Coalition for Peace Action; Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Princeton – (UUCP) Social Justice Committee; All Saints Church; Princeton Community TV; Women Who Never Give Up, and Jonette C. Smart, President, Trenton NAACP. Light Refreshments will be served. Admission is free.

The Princeton Area Community Democratic Organization (PCDO) is inviting the public to a panel discussion called ”Trenton from the Grass Roots” on Sunday, June 22 at 7:30 p.m. at the Suzanne Patterson Center, 45 Stockton Street.

The panel members will be architect John Hatch, a partner in Clark Caton Hintz and HHG Development Associates, specializing in the adaptive reuse of historic structures; the Reverend Toby Sanders, former president of the Trenton School Board and currently president, United Mercer interfaith Organization (UMIO), pastor, Beloved Community Church; Tracey Syphax, president, Capitol City Roofing (and ex-con) and the subject of a book called From the Block to the Boardroom — The Tracey D. Syphax Story; Nakia White, chief municipal prosecutor, City of Trenton; and Jeff Laurenti – former director of Foreign Policy Programs for The Century Foundation and former co-chair, Mercer for Obama — Moderator.

Mr. Laurenti will be posing several questions to the panel intended to reveal their visions of Trenton from the grassroots. Following comments by the panel, Mr. Laurenti will open questions from the floor. Kip Cherry, one of the organizers of the panel and a member of the PCDO’s executive committee, commented, “the concept behind the panel is to create a better understanding of the social, economic, and political dynamics of Trenton from the grassroots level, while focusing on positive opportunities and various good news announcements coming out of Trenton.”

Jon Durbin, president of the PCDO, noted that “Trenton has a solid multi-ethnic, multi-racial base and there are a multitude of nonprofit organizations that serve both Princeton and Trenton. He also cited, as a part of the good news,” recent announcements regarding the long-stalled replacement of Trenton Central High School and the resolution of the status of the city-financed Lafayette Yard hotel, recently relinquished by Marriott.”

“Our hope is to enhance communication with the potential for creating helpful future partnerships between people in Trenton and Princeton,” Ms. Cherry said. Mr. Laurenti noted that the event “fortuitously culminates a weekend of activities in Trenton that underscore its prospects for renewal,” citing the annual “Art All Night” event at the historic Roebling Wire Works the night June 21-22, and the “New Jersey 350th Celebration” at the Capitol complex, the afternoon of June 22.

Mr. Durbin noted that nonprofit organizations that serve both Princeton and Trenton are specifically invited to take part in the event and offer their insights. All nonprofit organizations and the general public are invited. The event is free.

SAVED FROM THE WRECKING BALL: The diner on Route One that was recently named to Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered” list is lifted on pallets in preparation for its move to a mixed-use redevelopment site in Hamilton.(Photo by Michael Competielle)

SAVED FROM THE WRECKING BALL: The diner on Route One that was recently named to Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered” list is lifted on pallets in preparation for its move to a mixed-use redevelopment site in Hamilton. (Photo by Michael Competielle)

Wednesday is moving day for the aluminum-clad diner that has stood empty on the north side of Route One, just south of Bakers Basin Road, for decades. The vintage building originally located on Calhoun Street in Trenton is scheduled to make a short trip to a mixed-use redevelopment project in Hamilton Township, to start a new life.

The diner was named to Preservation New Jersey’s “10 Most Endangered” list earlier this year. Situated next to the former home of Mrs. G’s TV & Appliance store, the building’s survival has become especially precarious as the land is cleared in preparation for a new shopping center. It is being saved and repurposed via a partnership between the developer Modern Recycled Spaces and Isles, Inc., the Trenton-based community development organization. Isles is moving its headquarters to the 200,000-square-foot mixed use site, known as Mill One, where the diner will be located.

The diner is being donated by its owner, SSL Realty Holding. Isles and Modern Recycled Spaces will raise funds to restore the building, which may be turned into a training site for food preparation services. “I have driven by the diner a million times over the years,” said Daniel Popkin, owner of Modern Recycled Spaces. “Because I’m involved with Isles, it seemed like a great partnership and a way to save this building.”

Isles president Marty Johnson said in a press release, “First, it’s important to save the diner from the landfill, and if we can bring it back to the Trenton area and restore it here, it’s a win for everyone.”

The diner has gone by various names — The Calhoun, the Cass, Giordano, Ben’s — since it was built around 1950 by the Mountain View Company, which produced prefabricated diners from 1939 to 1957, according to Preservation New Jersey (PNJ). From the 1920s to 1980s, New Jersey was home to at least six and as many as 20 prefabricated diners.

Referred to as the Giordano Diner by PNJ, the silver and green building on Route One is “one of the last of its kind,” said architect Jennifer A. Stark, who researched it for PNJ. “The mid-century architecture movement is really starting to explode now because of these buildings coming of age. It’s the modular aspect, the industrial Deco look, that resonates with a lot of people,” she said. “There were a lot of them, and this is one of the last ones.”

Bill Hotz, the developer of the shopping center to be built on the site, offered the building to anyone willing to have it moved. “It’s a great story,” he said last week of the partnership between Modern Recycled Spaces and Isles. “I know Isles and they seem like a pretty good organization. So if everything goes the way it’s supposed to, how great that the diner will be kept in Mercer County and repurposed for low income job training. I’m happy about it.”

The renovation of the diner fits in with Modern Recycled Spaces’ mission of restoring grand old structures into new spaces for start-up and creative businesses. According to Mr. Johnson of Isles, “The first step is to save it. The next step is to raise the funds and renovate it. We look forward to the chance to bring it back to a good life.”

 

The late afternoon sun was beating down on a crowd of athletes outside Princeton University’s DeNunzio Pool and Weaver Stadium on Monday, but nobody seemed to mind. Having just completed Day One of the Special Olympics USA Games, these competitors were pumped.

“It’s fun. I love it,” said William Quinn of the Pennsylvania delegation, the second largest group of athletes after New Jersey. Having competed in the pentathlon 400 and long jump, the 32-year-old was feeling good. So was teammate Tamika Newkirk, a competitor in shot put, long jump, and the 100-meter run. “When I run, I stay focused and everything is a whole lot easier for me,” said Ms. Newkirk, who is 42. “I have wonderful coaches. They love me so much. It’s a good thing.”

New Jersey’s hosting of this national event follows four years of careful planning by Special Olympics New Jersey, which is headquartered in Lawrence Township. The games showcase the athletic abilities of people with intellectual disabilities and celebrate the Special Olympics movement, which promotes acceptance and inclusion through sports. A group of 52 people ran down Nassau Street Saturday to open the games as part of the Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Athletes are being hosted at venues including Princeton and Rider universities, the College of New Jersey (TCNJ), the Lawrenceville School, Hun School, Peddie School, and Mercer County Park. The games began officially with an opening ceremony at Newark’s Prudential Center Sunday, and will culminate Friday at Trenton’s Sun National Bank Center.

More than 800 athletes were flown in and will be flown out from Trenton-Mercer Airport, free of charge, as part of the Cessna Citation Airlift. Physicians from all over the country took part in a “Healthy Athletes” program at TCNJ early this week, offering their services free of charge. A “Special Olympics Town” at TCNJ has a Jersey shore boardwalk theme with rides, games, and vendors. The list of special events is extensive.

New Jersey athletes taking part in the games represent every county in the state, competing in 16 sports including aquatics, track and field, baseball, basketball, bocce, bowling, cycling, flag football, golf, gymnastics, powerlifting, soccer, softball, tennis, triathlon, and volleyball. Eight of the teams are competing on Unified Sports teams, which pair athletes with intellectual disabilities and those without, on the same team.

“These kinds of events just make people happy,” said Martha Costa, an employee of the Princeton University Store, while riding back into town from the University venues on one of the First Transit buses employed for the occasion. “We’ve seen a lot of people come in from all over — South Carolina, Texas, Tennessee. One young man who does shot put came in with his Dad and was very proud of the fact that he’s from Arkansas. It was really nice to see.”

Bus driver Barbara Baldwin, making the runs between Palmer Square and the University venues, said the buses had been filled nearly all day. “It’s so exciting to see the kids’ faces when they get on,” she said. “And then when they come out of the events, you see them pumping their fists. It’s just so inspiring.”

 

Negotiations between the Princeton Public Schools (PPS), Board of Education (BOE), and representatives of the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) reached an impasse when representatives of both sides met June 10.

“The negotiating team came to the conclusion that the best way to move both sides toward agreement was to bring in a third party mediator,” said Princeton Schools Superintendent Steve Cochrane. “The first step in securing a mediator is to file for impasse. We formally filed for impasse late in the afternoon on June 12.”

The Board and the teachers’ union is due to meet again on June 30, which is the date when the current teachers’ contract expires. Since it can take up to 60 days for a mediator to be scheduled, Mr. Cochrane said that “filing sooner rather than later was the right action to take to help ensure we achieve a settlement before students and teachers return to classrooms in the fall.”

If called upon, a mediator would be provided by the state at no cost to the District. If however, no agreement is reached in mediation, a fact-finder would be called in at a cost of $1,500 per day, split between the two parties. According to BOE negotiator Patrick Sullivan, 40 percent of school negotiations in New Jersey go to mediation.

At the crux of the impasse, Mr. Sullivan said Monday, is Chapter 78, which Governor Christie signed into law in 2011 as part of state pension and health benefit reform, and which makes teachers pay a higher portion of their health costs. “They are paying a higher percentage each year because of Chapter 78 and they want the District to reimburse them for these costs,” explained Mr. Sullivan. “This, we cannot do. Not only would it put a burden on the District that is already strapped by a 2 percent cap, but our attorney advises that any such reimbursement would circumvent the law. It would be illegal.”

“Even if we could circumvent Chapter 78, we don’t have the money to both give a pay increase and to reimburse health care costs. The only way to do this would be to make cuts to staff, including teachers, and we don’t want to do this,” he said.

But according to Teachers’ Union negotiator John Baxter, the BOE has got its facts wrong when it comes to Chapter 78. “N.J. law, Chapter 78 rates were imposed for a limited period of four years, ending June 2015 for Princeton. The BOE wants to continue them indefinitely,” said Mr. Baxter in an email statement. “The BOE should negotiate contribution rates that make sense for Princeton Public Schools; not rates designed and imposed by Governor Christie and the New Jersey legislature.”

Mr. Baxter and the PREA also take issue with the Board’s figures, citing a news release issued by the Board last week, claiming that the district’s health care costs are going up by “over 12 percent this year.” The union pointed out that this number did not fit with the board’s claim that all employee health costs would increase by 6.4 percent. The Board later acknowledged its mistake and issued an amended release.

Even so, Mr. Baxter questions the Board’s figures. “The Board’s revised press release continues to give the impression that their cost for PREA health benefits will be going up ‘by much more than 2 percent each year,’” he said. “The fact is the cost to the Board has been decreasing as PREA members have been contributing more.”

According to the teachers’ union, “the amount the Board will be spending in 2014-15 is roughly 7 percent less than what they spent on PREA health benefits three years ago in 2011-12: their cost has decreased from $5,636,146 to $5,222,769. In other words, none of the 2 percent increase in the 2014-15 budget is going to be spent on PREA health care benefits, not one penny.”

PREA members will contribute between 14 and 35 percent next year, an average of 24 percent, which is above what “most Americans contribute,” said Mr. Baxter, who offered the table, shown on this page, based upon numbers provided by the Board during the negotiation process.

The sides are also divided with respect to a proposal by the Board for a High Deductible Health Plan/Health Savings Account.

Even after six meetings, however, the BOE is hopeful that some compromise will be reached. “We are committed to continuing to meet with the association. We believe bringing in a third party mediator will help us move forward. In the meantime, we look forward to our next meeting with PREA on June 30,” said Molly Chrein, one of three Board members on the negotiating team.

 

Combating wage theft is the focus of a landscaping registration ordinance re-introduced at Monday night’s meeting of Princeton Council. If approved, the ordinance will require all commercial landscapers to register with the municipality and acknowledge awareness of federal and state wage theft laws.

These laws protect workers, many of whom are undocumented, from what Councilwoman Heather Howard called the “pernicious practices” of not being paid for all hours worked or sufficient overtime, earning less than the amount agreed upon, or not being paid at all. A public hearing on the ordinance has been set for Council’s July 14 meeting.

“This is a very important step we’re taking to protect the rights and safety of people working here,” Ms. Howard said. She described the work of the Human Services Commission’s Immigration Issues Subcommittee as “a unique collaboration between key government and community partners.”

Local resident John Heilner chaired the subcommittee. “Wage theft is under-reported because the folks who are victims fear losing their jobs or are undocumented and afraid of being reported,” he said, adding that existing wage theft laws do not discriminate against undocumented workers.

The ordinance also addresses workers’ compensation. Landscapers applying for registration, which they would be required to renew annually, would be notified of the state’s workers’ compensation insurance laws. The laws protect not only the health and safety of the workers, but also help homeowners, business owners, and landscapers avoid lawsuits. They would also be notified of the town’s leaf, brush, and log collection program. Under the revised ordinance, companies would lose the right to operate in Princeton if found to be in violation of the state and federal wage theft laws.

Princeton’s Human Services Director Elisa Neira said the ordinance will complement efforts already made to show the town’s commitment to human rights and strengthen relations between the police and the immigrant community. Birch Avenue resident Craig Garcia, who works with New Labor Education and Training Institute in New Brunswick, said wage theft is a problem all over the country. New Labor trained Princeton’s police force on how to address complaints related to wage theft laws earlier this year.

“I’m very proud of the work I’ve seen on this,” Mr. Garcia said. “The attention the town has given us is really commendable. Having a town like Princeton taking this big step would send a message to contractors that we need to do the right thing for our workers.” Mr. Garcia said the aim is not to shut down any businesses, but rather to promote honest and safe practices. “Since we passed [a similar ordinance] in New Brunswick, we’ve had an excellent response,” he said. “It makes companies do the right thing.”

Ms. Howard said that public forums in the future will address the issue of getting people to come forward to report wage theft. “We recognize that there is an education component that is really important,” she said. Mr. Heilner and Ms. Neira have been working on an informational booklet for workers.

———

During the public comment portion of the meeting, resident Sam Hamod targeted Council president Bernie Miller with a complaint about the agreement under which Princeton University makes financial contributions totaling $21.72 million over seven years to the municipality, in lieu of taxes. Mr. Hamod wanted to know how the agreement, which he said favors the University and it’s “octopus reach,” was arrived at. “I just want them to pay their fair share,” he said.

Mr. Miller said he would be happy to send him the terms of the agreement. Councilman Patrick Simon defended the process, saying the University is tax-exempt under state law. “The University is not obligated to give anything to the town,” he said, adding that other non-profit organizations pay nothing. Mr. Hamod said he disagreed with Mr. Simon.

Council’s next meeting is Monday, June 23 at 7 p.m.

 

page1

After a rewarding first day of competition at Princeton University, members of the Pennsylvania delegation at the 2014 Special Olympics USA Games wait for the bus that will take them back to their quarters at the College of New Jersey. From left: Tamika Newkirk, Katie Grohotolski, William Quinn, and assistant coach Tim Damiani. The athletes are among some 3,500 who have traveled to Mercer County from all over the country to compete in the games, which culminate Friday at the Sun National Bank Center in Trenton. (Photo by Anne Levin)

 

June 11, 2014
PU PREP PROGRAM GRADUATES: Princeton High School graduates celebrated with fellow members of the PUPP Class of 2014 at a ceremony at Princeton University on Wednesday, June 4. Graduating Princeton High School seniors Cynthia Silva (left) and Chelsea-Mia Pierre will attend Muhlenberg College and Dickinson College, respectively.(Photo Courtesy of Torey Wilson)PU PREP PROGRAM GRADUATES: Princeton High School graduates celebrated with fellow members of the PUPP Class of 2014 at a ceremony at Princeton University on Wednesday, June 4. Graduating Princeton High School seniors Cynthia Silva (left) and Chelsea-Mia Pierre will attend Muhlenberg College and Dickinson College, respectively.	(Photo Courtesy of Torey Wilson)

PU PREP PROGRAM GRADUATES: Princeton High School graduates celebrated with fellow members of the PUPP Class of 2014 at a ceremony at Princeton University on Wednesday, June 4. Graduating Princeton High School seniors Cynthia Silva (left) and Chelsea-Mia Pierre will attend Muhlenberg College and Dickinson College, respectively. (Photo Courtesy of Torey Wilson)PU PREP PROGRAM GRADUATES: Princeton High School graduates celebrated with fellow members of the PUPP Class of 2014 at a ceremony at Princeton University on Wednesday, June 4. Graduating Princeton High School seniors Cynthia Silva (left) and Chelsea-Mia Pierre will attend Muhlenberg College and Dickinson College, respectively. (Photo Courtesy of Torey Wilson)

The Princeton University Preparatory Program (PUPP) celebrated the achievements of its tenth graduating class at a ceremony at the Princeton University Friend Center last week.

Princeton University President Christopher L. Eisgruber, fresh from the University’s 267th Commencement exercises the day before, addressed 21 high schoolers from Princeton High School, Trenton Central High School Chambers Street and West campuses, Ewing High School, Nottingham High School, and Lawrence High School, as well as program alumni who had just graduated from college.

Founded in 2001, PUPP identifies academically gifted high school students in their sophomore year who come from financially disadvantaged backgrounds. The students come to the Princeton University campus for three summers of rigorous study, and receive academic enrichment during the school year.

Having the president of the University speak to the graduating class is a tradition that began with Shirley Tilghman. Last year, both outgoing President Tilghman and incoming President Eisgruber attended the ceremony.

Directed by Jason Klugman and Associate Director Torey Wilson, PUPP is designed to help equalize access to higher education for economically disadvantaged students. It enrolls 24 students a year and provides an academically intense, three-year college
preparatory experience.

Observed socioeconomic disparities in college admissions fueled the program’s creation by John Webb and Princeton University Professor Miguel Centeno in order to give high-achieving students the necessary resources to prepare them to apply and be accepted into selective colleges and universities.

The program consists of annual summer sessions during which the students take classes at Princeton University from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Students are required to attend for three consecutive summers and participate in academic enrichment sessions during the school year. The curriculum consists of writing, literature, math, science, social science, art, music appreciation, and college preparation.

This year’s graduating class members and the colleges they will be attending in the fall are Angela Amankwaah, The George Washington University; D’Andre Battle, Dickinson College; Danica Bradley, The College of New Jersey; Ebony Brown, University of Richmond; Monica Collado, Rutgers University; Paola Dubon, Muhlenberg College; Jordan Finger, Monmouth University; Diana Gomez, Muhlenberg College; Aliya Grooms, Spelman College; Akahyl Henry, Rutgers University; Erik Lima, Colgate University; David Lopez, The College of New Jersey; Simon Lopez, Rutgers University; Karem Mathiang, Dickinson College; Wilhelmina Minney, Muhlenberg College; Chelsea-Mia Pierre, Dickinson College; Caelle Rousseau, Amherst College; Yadira Santos, The College of New Jersey; Cynthia Silva, Muhlenberg College; Magdalena Stankowska, Princeton University; Kadija Yilla, Pomona College.

“This year, all of our students were accepted into Rutgers, and this is a first, although all but one were accepted last year,” said Mr. Wilson, who has been with the program since its founding. “The one exception got an early acceptance at Princeton and didn’t apply to Rutgers. This year we have students going to some schools that are new for us such as Pomona College in California and Amherst College in Massachusetts.”

On average, PUPP students apply to about 10 colleges. For more information, visit: www.princeton.edu/pupp/.

 

McCaffreys

Steve Carney and Gisela Kempkes of McCaffrey’s Princeton, which donates funds to many charitable causes, recently presented a donation of $4,714 to Carol Walton, the chief executive officer of The Parkinson Alliance.

Changes submitted to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week by Williams/Transco, the company hoping to construct a 42-inch-diameter gas pipeline on the Princeton Ridge, are an improvement on the original plan, according to a citizens group concerned about safety and environmental issues. But the Princeton Ridge Coalition still has worries about the company that would be performing the work and how it would be carried out.

“They are definitely not our favorite,” Rob Goldston, chair of the Coalition’s safety committee, said of Henkels & McCoy, the company hired by Williams to do the job. The contractor is currently being sued by the family of a woman who died in a gas explosion at a housing development in Ewing Township last March, where seven utility workers were injured and 130 homes were damaged or destroyed. “We’re planning to install monitoring cameras on the pipeline, and that might help the safety culture,” Mr. Goldston said. “We can monitor and record what they’re doing 24-7.”

Williams wants to build a high-pressure pipeline for natural gas, next to one that was installed in 1958. The portion running through Princeton Ridge is part of the Skillman Loop and would carry natural gas from western Pennsylvania shale fields to customers from other states.

Members of the group held a meeting last week with Mayor Liz Lempert and municipal engineer Bob Kiser to give an update on the plan, which Williams has submitted to FERC for approval. The Coalition has met several times with representatives from the company, which has been largely responsive to their concerns, Mr. Goldston said.

Williams spokesman Chris Stockton said Monday that the company stands by the decision to hire Henkels & McCoy. “We have very high standards for our construction contractors. We would not have chosen them if we did not have confidence that they could do the job and do it safely,” he said. “We brought them on to this project last year. We have worked with them in the past and we know they work safely.”

Following last week’s meeting, Mr. Goldston said the changes Williams submitted to FERC last week show progress. “But it doesn’t solve all the problems from an environmental point of view,” he added. “There will be damage. They’ll be digging up the roots of trees.”

As far as safety is concerned, “They have agreed to a number of things we suggested and that they first said were impossible,” Mr. Goldston said. “For a period of time, they will empty the current pipeline and fill it with water during the three to six weeks of the construction period. But they haven’t told us which three to six weeks that will be.”

In an email before the meeting, Mr. Stockton said the natural gas in the existing pipeline would be replaced with water “when performing rock hammering operations.” Mr. Stockton also outlined Williams’ addressing of citizens’ concerns regarding widening of forest, revegetation after the pipeline is installed, blasting, the use of heavy equipment, various subterranean conditions that may exist, and the analysis of possible alternatives, submitted to them by the Coalition.

“We believe that we have worked in good faith to address the concerns raised by the PRC, going to great lengths to develop construction plans and techniques that will help minimize environmental impacts while ensuring that the pipeline is installed safely,” Mr. Stockton said.

What makes the project especially challenging is the hard basalt bedrock and wetlands that run through the ridge. The process of breaking up the boulders will require major heavy equipment. Additional concerns focus on the fact that the existing pipeline passes through the campuses of Princeton Day School, Princeton Academy of the Sacred Heart, and the Stuart Country Day School, as well as homes situated nearby.

Mr. Goldston said that although Williams has made compromises, the company is not committing to backfilling the pipeline with water, which he called “the right and responsible thing to do. We need to encourage them to go the rest of the way,” he said. “We will have to hire our own engineers to assess what Williams puts in.”

Williams is hoping to receive approval from FERC this fall and begin construction on the pipeline project next spring.

 

IAS Amended PlanThe Institute for Advanced Study unveiled its amended plan for faculty housing to members of the press yesterday. The plans will be reviewed by the Princeton Planning Board next Thursday, June 17.

The amendment, made to original plans unanimously approved by the Planning Board in March 2012, became necessary when the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission (DRCC) objected in January to the use of land close to a stream.

The state regulatory agency voted 4 to 3 against the original plan, which had intended to use one-third of an acre of a 100 foot buffer along the waterway, and called for a modification that would avoid that one third acre.

The amended plan achieves this by reducing the overall footprint through small adjustments to several housing lot lines, all within previously approved boundaries. The original buffer line between the Institute and the Battlefield Park remains unchanged and the project continues to leave two-thirds of the site in public open space.

According to John Masten, the Institute’s associate director of finance and administration, “Cluster zoning allowed the Institute to amend its plan by creating slightly smaller lot sizes for single family homes.” The buffer zone between IAS housing and the Battlefield Park amounts to over 13 acres of land in a permanent easement.

“This land will be open and accessible to park visitors and the Institute is offering to create paths and put signage in place that will enhance the experience of the historic site,” said Mr. Masten.

With this amendment, the Institute believes that it has met all the subdivision requirements of the municipality and complied with DRCC requirements as well.

Institute Director Robbert Dijkgraaf expressed optimism that the plan would meet with approval at next week’s Planning Board meeting. “Mathematicians say that this [amended plan] is a strict subset of the original so it should pass just as the original did.”

Asked about objections from those who wish to preserve the land from development for historic reasons, Mr. Masten said that all of those considerations had been taken into account when the Princeton Planning Board looked at the original plans two years ago. At that time, the Planning Board undertook an extensive review over four days, he said.

The Princeton Battlefield Area Preservation Society, known for short as the Princeton Battlefield Society (PBS), has claimed that the Institute lacks sensitivity with respect to land where the Battle of Princeton was fought, likening its housing plans to Gettysburg College putting faculty housing at the scene of Pickett’s Charge.

PBS attorney Bruce Afran sued to overturn the Planning Board’s 2012 approval. But last June, Judge Mary Jacobson ruled against the suit, which prompted PBS to appeal her decision in Mercer County Superior Court in July.

In describing Ms. Jacobsen’s decision, Institute attorney Chris Tarr said at the time: “In all my 40 years, I have never heard a judge give such a careful, clear, and thoughtful review of her deliberation. The Princeton Planning Board decided this unanimously and since there were no variances, this was a simple case. Judge Jacobson had to decide whether the Planning Board acted reasonably or was their action ‘arbitrary, capricious, or unreasonable’. After a thorough review she concluded that they acted reasonably.”

The IAS plan would cluster eight townhouses and seven single-family homes on a seven-acre parcel of land that sits between existing faculty homes and the Institute’s main campus. The buildings are designed to have a low profile and be screened from the Battlefield Park by trees. An additional 200-foot buffer zone alongside the Battlefield Park would be permanently preserved as open space.

The condominiums would be especially attractive to faculty emeriti wishing to downsize and the single family homes would be built as the need arises for new faculty, said Mr. Dijkgraaf, who described the faculty housing as crucial to the Institute’s residential nature as a community of scholars. “We take this aspect of the Institute very seriously,” he said, “it’s a magical ingredient that is key to the Institute’s success.”

The Institute draws some 200 residential visitors a year and has 27 permanent faculty and 20 faculty emeriti.

But rising costs of housing in Princeton have made it difficult for faculty to purchase homes in the area. Twenty years ago, 55 percent of faculty lived close by. Now, 11 out of 27 do so. It is becoming more difficult to maintain the Institute’s all-important residential character.

If approved, building would take place in two stages with roads, infrastructure, and condominiums first, followed by single family homes as needed. All of the housing would be on the Princeton tax rolls, as is the case with other faculty homes in the area.

Amendment of New Plan?

The Princeton Battlefield Society has contended that the amended plan constitutes an entirely new plan with a whole set of environmental implications rather than, as the IAS avers, a simple amendment to a plan that has already been approved.

“It is in the nature of building plans to be amended and to argue that any change makes it necessary to go back to square one would be a very inefficient use of municipal time,” said Mr. Masten. “I believe that the planning board is regarding this as an amended plan.”

“Regardless of whether this is a new plan or an amended plan, it is still a destruction of a national historic resource,” Mr. Afran said Tuesday.

A Little History

The Institute’s long-standing plans for faculty housing are described on its website (www.ias.edu) which notes the residential nature and its role in the creation of the Princeton Battlefield State Park, through the sale of its land to the State of New Jersey for the purpose of Battlefield preservation.

In 1959, the Institute donated the former Mercer Manor portico that now stands on the northern part of the Battlefield as a memorial to the unknown American and British soldiers who died there. In 1973, the Institute sold a further 32 acres to the state, increasing the size of the Battlefield Park by 60 percent. According to the IAS website, this sale was made on the basis of a specific commitment by the state in 1971 that the Institute’s field east of the new Battlefield Park boundary could be used as the site for new faculty housing.

“The Institute has been a great steward of its lands,” said Mr. Dijkgraaf, referencing the preservation of the Institute Woods and its support of the Battlefield Park.

After the Planning Board meets next Thursday, the Institute will resubmit its amended plan to the DRCC. But since there is now no encroachment on the DRCC stream buffer, it is expected by the Institute to be reviewed by staff and passed without further ado.

After that, the Institute’s housing plans will go before the Mercer County Planning Board. And the story will continue.

 

Two days after a primary election that was too close to call, Council member Jo Butler was declared the winner of the race for one of two available seats on the governing body, leading challenger Sue Nemeth by six votes. Council president Bernie Miller, who earned the most votes, will run in the November general election for the other Council seat.

“I think it’s important that we move on,” Mayor Liz Lempert said Monday in response to questions about the election. “We have a really big agenda ahead of us and we need to concentrate on the important work.”

With Ms. Butler only three votes ahead at the conclusion of voting last Tuesday, the race was turned over to the Mercer County Board of Elections in order to review 11 provisional ballots that were cast in the election. A provisional ballot is used to record a vote if a voter’s eligibility is in question and the voter would otherwise not be permitted to vote at his or her polling place.

Five of the ballots were validated, four of which were for Ms. Butler and one for Ms. Nemeth. Mr. Miller’s tally immediately after the election was 1,602 votes. Following the provisional ballot count, Ms. Butler earned 1,547 and Ms. Nemeth won 1,541. Mr. Miller and Ms. Nemeth, both members of the former Township Committee, had run together on a slate in an effort to oust Ms. Butler, who had been a member of Borough Council before consolidation. Mayor Lempert and Council members Heather Howard and Lance Liverman were supporters of the Miller/Nemeth slate.

Ms. Butler said this week that she had been “cautiously optimistic” before the election. “I had done a lot of door-to-door and gotten a lot of pretty positive feedback, but the odds were incredibly challenging,” she said. “I feel fortunate and grateful for the support of the voters. I’m looking forward to focusing on the business of the town rather than the campaign.”

Ms. Nemeth conceded to Ms. Butler immediately following the provisional ballot count. “Sue was gracious in defeat and I appreciate that,” Ms. Butler said. “Bernie is on a European holiday but I did hear from him and I appreciate that, too. We’ll have a better sense of it when we meet face to face.”

Ms. Nemeth said Monday that she hopes voters will support Ms. Butler and Mr. Miller, as well as others running for office, in the November election. “I certainly encourage everyone to get behind our two nominees. And there are other races in our district that are important to the voters,” she said, singling out Bonnie Watson Coleman’s upcoming run for Congress.

Ms. Nemeth said she looks forward to “mending all the fences. I fought as hard as I could,” she said. “The three of us know full well how hard this is. We give a lot of ourselves, give up a lot of time with our families. Jo and I both have day jobs that are demanding and I fully appreciate what she has given to this role, and I respect her service.”

At the Council meeting on Monday evening, Mayor Lempert offered her congratulations to Ms. Butler. Earlier in the day, she said she had attended Ms. Butler’s victory party and brought her flowers.

 

Negotiations that began in April between the Princeton Public Schools (PPS), Board of Education (BOE), and representatives of the Princeton Regional Education Association (PREA) continued yesterday, June 10, after Town Topics press deadline.

According to a press statement released by the Board negotiator Patrick Sullivan, who, along with Andrea Spalla and Molly Chrein, has met with the teachers’ union leadership on five occasions, the district now has an offer that it is hoped will be satisfactory to both parties.

Salaries and health benefits are the major sticking points. But the Board has little room to maneuver, said Mr. Sullivan, given the state-mandated 2 percent cap on annual school budget increases.

“Many school budget items, including the cost of employee health insurance have increased more than 2 percent,” states the release. “The School District’s health insurance costs will rise over 12 percent this year, and a 10 percent rise in health premiums equals approximately a 1 percent rise in the school budget, or half the allowed increase under the 2 percent cap.” [Editor’s Note: Subsequent to the printing of this article, the Princeton Public Schools Board of Education issued a correction to the press release quoted here removing the 12 percent increase claim and replacing it with 6.2 percent.]

“New Jersey law also mandates that all school employees pay a portion of their health insurance premiums. Prior to 2011, PPS employees paid for 1/12 (approximately 8.3 percent) of their annual health insurance premiums, while the rest was paid fully by the school district. In 2011, a new state law (“Chapter 78”) was passed that required PPS employees to pay a higher percentage of their health insurance premiums. Many observers have pointed out that the 2011 Chapter 78 law brought state public employees’ contributions to their insurance premiums in line with the amounts that most in the private sector had been paying for healthcare for years. The Board is working to find a way to contain these health insurance cost increases through new insurance structures that save money for both the Board and for teachers.”

According to the Board, the teachers’ union is asking for salary increases that exceed the state average in each of the three years of a contract, as well as for high benefit health insurance at a lower cost to its members, and increases in the stipends teachers receive for training, committee work, and extracurricular services.

The release points out that teacher salaries in Princeton are already among the highest in the State of New Jersey and nationally, and that Princeton already pays among the highest extracurricular stipends in the state.

It also states that the union’s request for health benefits is asking the Board to “depart from” the provisions of Chapter 78. According to the BOA, the union wants teachers to pay no more than an amount equal to 1.5 percent of their annual salary towards their health insurance premiums, at a time when most Americans contribute approximately 18 to 29 percent of premium costs for employer funded coverage.

The Board’s Offer

The School Board is offering salary increases at the effective rates of 1.8 percent in the first year, 1.8 percent in the second year, and 1.86 percent in the third year of the contract, conditioned upon the PREA accepting the Board’s offer on health benefits that would include higher deductibles in order to reduce premium costs for both employees and the Board.

The Board proposes to contribute an amount equal to 60 percent of employee’s deductible to a Health Savings Account (HSA) for each PREA member. If the member doesn’t spend their deductible, they keep the balance, resulting in an additional benefit to them. The Board can afford to contribute these amounts into the PREA members HSA accounts because of the significant savings it will realize from the reduced premium costs due to moving to the higher deductible HSA structure. In effect, the Board is offering to share over 70 percent of its savings from this plan.

As for stipends, the Board is suggesting a rationalization of the contractual schedule of stipends, as long as the total dollar amount budgeted for those stipends does not increase.

Teachers’ Union Response

PREA negotiator John Baxter took issue yesterday with some of the Board’s figures, characterizing Board statements regarding increases in health care costs as “misleading.”

“According to [the release] the district’s health care costs are going to increase by more than 12 percent in the upcoming year. However, according to the BOE’s budget, the cost of all employee benefits for the entire district is expected to increase by 6.4 percent.”

“These numbers cannot both be accurate,” said Mr. Baxter. Citing a December 2013 contract between the district and administrative staff in which the latter received a 2.4 percent salary increase, Mr. Baxter said that administrators had “better and more expensive health benefits than contained in the existing PREA contract.”

Not only that, the Board refuses to talk about health care contribution rates as imposed by Chapter 78 for a limited period of four years that ends June 2015 for Princeton. The BOE “wants to continue them indefinitely,” said Mr. Baxter.

With respect to the Board’s proposal for a Health Savings Account, Mr. Baxter described it as “limited and shortsighted,” a plan that even the Board admits will result in higher health care costs for some PREA members.

As for BOE proposed salary increases, Mr. Baxter called it a “fund-it-yourself” plan, since it’s contingent upon PREA members accepting costly health benefits changes.

“The BOE has not offered one penny from the $530,000 already in the budget that can be put toward salary increases; not one penny from the 2 percent increase.” he said.

“Administrators did not fund their raise,” said Mr. Baxter, “why should teachers, guidance counselors, nurses, child study team members, media specialists, and other essential certified staff?”

The results of the Tuesday, June 10 meeting will be reported in next week’s Town Topics.

 

Tourism in the Princeton region is on the rise, according to a study announced Monday by the Princeton Regional Chamber of Commerce. “The Economic Impact of Tourism in the Princeton Region, 2013 Results” reveals that the jump of 3.6 percent between 2012 and 2013, including spending by visitors of more than $1.9 billion, is a continuation of an upward trend.

Brian Tyrrell, president and CEO of Travel and Tourism and Research and Training Associates and a professor at Stockton State College, headed the study for the second year in a row. It was commissioned by the Chamber and the Princeton Regional Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB).

At a press conference held Monday morning at Morven Museum, Chamber chairman John Thurber credited the CVB for its promotion of tourism and called the report “a very significant study measuring the economic impact of tourism in our region and its growth over the last year. The good news is that the impact is substantial and growing in our region and still outpacing the state’s averages.”

In addition to Princeton, the region in the study includes Cranbury, East Windsor, Ewing, Hamilton, Hightstown, Hopewell Borough and Township, Plainsboro, Robbinsville, Rocky Hill, Trenton, and West Windsor. Mercer County Executive Brian Hughes focused on Trenton in his brief remarks, specifically citing the increased activity at Trenton-Mercer Airport, where Frontier Airlines has expanded its service over the past year. “Twelve airlines have come and gone, but Frontier is driving our economic engine,” he said, adding that a Cessna will be flying athletes into the airport “every five minutes” during the coming week’s Special Olympics USA Games.

A temporary shutdown of the airport last year for improvements resulted in a slight decline in transportation spending between 2013 and 2012. But Mr. Hughes and Mr. Tyrrell expect the numbers to climb in the future.

Mr. Tyrrell said there was growth of nearly 10 percent in the food and beverage sector, and shopping, recreation, and entertainment were up 5.5 percent each. Transportation was down slightly while traveler accommodations were largely flat. Occupancy tax collection as a whole in the region is slightly less than in the previous year.

Factors affecting the numbers included the temporary closing of the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Plainsboro for renovations, and a surge in hotel rentals during the last two months of 2012 after Hurricane Sandy, when rooms were rented by Red Cross workers, displaced homeowners, and FEMA workers.

Mayor Liz Lempert brought up the issue of tour buses that make brief stops in Princeton on their way from New York to Philadelphia, but don’t patronize shops, restaurants, or cultural sites in town. The buses often idle on Nassau Street while passengers use the bathrooms in the visitors’ center inside the Princeton University Store and snap photographs of Nassau Hall before leaving. Adam Perle, vice president of the Chamber, said the organization is working with the municipality to try and come up with a plan that is appealing to motor coach operators and will make them see Princeton as a destination rather than a stop along the way.

 

CP Pool

After a winter like the one Princeton endured, people wasted no time taking advantage of the Community Park Pool, which opened for weekends on May 24. Admission fees: resident adult $10, resident child $5; non-resident adult $13, non-resident child $11. For further information, visit the Princeton Recreation Department website. (Photo by Emily Reeves)